Tag: Album reviews

Album review: There in the Ochre by Luke O’Shea

91BeZwEOI6L._SS500_If you’ve seen singer-songwriter Luke O’Shea perform you’ll know he’s a very funny man with a good line in dry wit, and self-deprecation where appropriate. You’ll also know he’s able to balance telling funny stories with bringing heartfelt, intelligent songs to his audience. Last year he met his match in Lyn Bowtell, who is not only one of the most majestic performers in Australia, if not the world, but who manages the same balance as O’Shea. It’s therefore no surprise, or mystery, that Bowtell appears on three songs on O’Shea’s new album, There in the Ochre. What is perhaps a surprise is that with a presence as strong as Bowtell’s, the songs are firmly O’Shea’s. That’s because at this stage of his career, five albums in and with Golden Guitars behind him, O’Shea is a force – of nature, for good, however you’d like to phrase it.

There in the Ochre is described as a celebration of Australian history and stories, but it’s also a reckoning. The core of the album is ‘Happy Australia Day’, which features beloved singer-songwriter Kevin Bennett. O’Shea does not resile from the very difficult parts of our history, one of which is the date of the national day. His lyrics are as thoughtful, as always, and they’re also thought provoking. O’Shea is passionate and emotional in his song, and it’s a clue as to the range he explores on the rest of the album. O’Shea’s experience as a teacher no doubt informs how he writes a song like this, but the song is in no way heavy handed  because it comes from the heart and there is fire rather than zealotry behind it. O’Shea is a voice of conscience, and of consciousness.

Fundamentally, this an album about love: for country, for people, for close relationships (‘Firewood’, ‘Last Line on Your List’, ‘Where You Go’), for life. It’s an album about difficulties, too, but love and recognition and acknowledgement are woven through these (‘Coastal Town’, ‘Open Cut’). The outstanding Ashleigh Dallas appears, in addition to Bowtell and Bennett. There’s not a song on here that hasn’t been created with love and care, and it’s something the listener can detect immediately, and even more on repeat listenings, because that love and care is there for us. O’Shea the teacher is also a great communicator, and the best compliment we can pay him is the one he pays us: offering his time and attention, so that we can all be enriched by the experience.

It’s been three years since O’Shea’s last album and he’s clearly spent that time making sure that every single track on this album is worthy of being there. While that makes for an incredibly rich listening experience, that doesn’t meant it’s always easy – O’Shea challenges the listener to examine their own presumptions and expectations about all sorts of things, not just on the scale of our nation but our small, daily interactions with each other. If that means the songs lodge themselves in your head, making you think, making you feel, that won’t be a bad thing – There in the Ochre is a wonderful companion.

Buy the album from the artist: https://lukeoshea.com/shop/there-in-the-ochre/

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify





EP review: Namoi by Andy Golledge

andy-website-pageLate last year Tamworth-born Sydney-based singer-songwriter Andy Golledge released an extraordinary song, ‘Run to the River’, and announced his upcoming EP, Namoi. That EP has now been released and while it was always likely to be exceptional, there is so much else that could be said about it, yet it can also be described quite simply. That’s because the songs on this EP are so good at generating emotional reactions before rational responses. And it’s for that reason that the simple description is this: it’s joyous. That is, it’s joyous for the listener to have this work in existence, to listen to it repeatedly, to look forward to listening to it again. Each song has its own brace of emotions – ‘Run to the River’, for example, is love and despair and comfort and confusion – but the net effect is one of joy. This is an EP that can make each day better.

So that’s the emotional side. And even though when music listeners talk to each other they tend to talk in terms of ‘I love it’ or ‘I don’t love it’, when writing about music there’s an imperative to try to find the rationale for why a song or collection of songs works as well as it does. Rationally, therefore, we can say that Golledge and his band are very talented musicians who have worked together long enough now to make these recordings gloriously cohesive while also sounding like they’re exploring within them. They’re having fun (which is no doubt contributing to the emotional impact of the EP) and that makes it fun for us to listen to them.

Rationally, too, the through line of this EP can probably be found in its first song, ‘Blue’: ‘I may never tell the truth/But I can never sing a lie’. Golledge is authentic – authentically open hearted and open minded – which means he is declaring to listeners that he is willing to make a connection with them. For country music audiences this is usually a priority, alongside wanting a good story. And Golledge has great stories. Which makes him a country music artist, even as we can hear other influences in his songs, like 1970s California rock and 2000s East Coast Americana. If we’re open to life, to culture, we all have influences, in everything we do, which doesn’t make us any less us. Golledge’s work is unique, and familiar, and overall a gift to the rest of us humans.

Namoi is out now on I OH YOU/Mushroom.

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify


Album review: Fireroad Vol. 1 by Dusty Miles

a3872986107_16.jpgShane Hicks – the man behind Dusty Miles – is a founding member of Brisbane blues-rock band The Blackwater Fever. His new venture is more in the singer-songwriter vein, edging into country music, and it’s the album Fireroad Vol. 1. There is very little other information to be found about Miles apart from the fact that he wrote, performed, mixed and recorded Fireroad Vol. 1 as well as doing the cover artwork. And what that does is force a reviewer to accept the music as the only possible biography there is – but even then Miles is not a songwriter in the confessional vein. Fireroad Vol. 1 is a collection of stories that take a while to get to know, and the reason you’ll want to spend the time to get to know them is because the music lodges into your synapses. Snippets of these songs pop into the mind at random times and each one calls you back to the album.

Fireroad Vol. 1 seems to contain a song cycle, describing a man in flight and also in pursuit, one who has regrets but who isn’t letting them stop him moving forwards, and moving on. The music is evocative of space and distance, across landscape and time. There’s sadness in it, especially in ‘Lead Me Home’, and there’s also insouciance, as in ‘Laying in the Sun’.

All of that is an effort to describe what can be indescribable – to rationally explain an emotional and visceral response to music, which is what a lot of writing about music seeks to do. The truth of this album is that it’s catchy without having obvious musical hooks; it’s memorable because its purpose not narrowly defined, and therefore not easy to figure out. It will make you want to laze around and listen to it, although it’s also a very good accompaniment to a long walk – and any music that is a great companion is serving that bigger purpose of art: to help us navigate life, to stimulate our senses and our brains, to reward our curiosity, and to, often, simply be great entertainment. Fireroad Vol. 1 does all that and more.

Listen to Fireroad Vol. 1 on:

Apple Music | BandcampiTunes | Soundcloud | Spotify


EP review: The River by The Holy Smoke

HolySmoke_EP_Insta_600x600px.jpgEarlier this year Perth trio The Holy Smoke released the single ‘Lay Your Head Down’, which was an example of just how much beauty can be created when three talented and accomplished individuals decide to make music together, as they been doing since meeting at a creative retreat in 2016. They have extensive musical experience: Rose Parker has toured extensively throughout Australia, USA and Canada as one half of the Velvet Janes, supporting artists including Arlo Guthrie, Ani DiFranco, Luka Bloom and The Black Sorrows; Delilah Rose is a 2018 WAM Award nominee, 2019 ISC Songwriting Comp nominee and 2019 WA Country Music Award winner, and Karlee Rae is a top graduate from WAAPA, is in her 20th year of vocal and piano coaching, has toured internationally and recorded multiple albums and EPs.

Happily, that single was just the entree to their sound: they have now released the five-song EP The River. Water is the common theme for all of the songs, although each song is quite different. There is a range of moods on the EP, but overall the trio’s gospel, country folk and soul sound is sublime. This is the sort of music that you can listen to when you need a motivating start to the day, or you want to reminded that there is beauty in the world – or you simply want to be transported, because it’s easy to lose yourself inside these harmonies and wish you could stay there for a while.

The River is available now:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify


Album review: Searching for Magpies by KTG

400x400bb-2.jpegIrish artist KTG (Katie Gallagher) has a voice that is impossible to ignore, and that’s why it’s the first thing to mention in this review of her mini-album, Searching for Magpies – because it will be the first thing you notice, and it will hook you in from the opening track, ‘Don’t Tell My Mother’, which then leads in to a collection of musically eclectic tracks, ranging from folk to soul to pop and rock (and not so much country, but sometimes it’s good to take a detour).

But here’s a suggestion: listen to the last track first. It’s call ‘December’ and it’s recorded live, just KTG and a guitar. While it does make a fine last track, it is also a wonderful introduction to KTG’s abilities and the emotion she conjures. You can then start at the proper beginning, run all the way through the varying styles of songs and still enjoy hearing the song again. Indeed, any of the songs on this album could be performed by KTG alone with a guitar and they would still be compelling, which is a mark not just of her strength in performance but of the structure of the songs.

KTG has said that the album is based on the old tale about magpies (one for sorrow, two for joy, and so on) as each track relates to one of the lines in the rhyme. ‘It was inspired by my fascination for magpies,’ she says, ‘and how paranoid I get when I only see one magpie by itself.’ And while there is a unifying theme, the songs can be enjoyed in and of themselves. For many listeners the album will be an introduction to KTG but she has been performing since the age of five. Now twenty-two, she is clearly an artist in command of her skills and her stories.

Searching for Magpies is out now through Beardfire Music.

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify


EP review: Older by Simon Imrei

Simon Imrei (Older EP - Cover Art).jpgEarlier this year Victorian singer-songwriter Simon Imrei released a single called ‘Stand Still’, which was endorsed on this site as ‘easy to listen to’ – a compliment that is taken as a pejorative by some people but which is not at all, because writing a song that is easy to listen to often involves the ability to not only hone but ruthlessly edit melody and lyrics in order to produce something that is accessible to a broad range of people. When an artist produces something that is ‘easy to listen to’ they tend to be audience focused, thinking of the best way they can communicate clearly with others.

Now that Imrei has released a new EP, Older – which contains ‘Stand Still’ – it’s clear that communicating with an audience is a priority for him. The EP contains five songs that are sweet and bittersweet, thoughtful, and clear in what they’re expressing – and all of that applies to the music as well as the lyrics. Imrei has an ear for a catchy melody, and that is a talent as well as a skill. Imrei’s bio states that he grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, and spent his childhood ‘riding in the back of cars along tree-lined roads and through quiet towns listening to the catchy choruses and the pop sensibility of 80s/90s radio’. So it’s likely that’s partly what led to his melodic skills and also his ability to create songs that conjure that sense of distance and space that comes from travelling around the Australian countryside.

What that doesn’t account for, though, is his voice, which sounds like it’s smooth – although that implies smoothed out, whereas it’s actually full of nuance. It’s the sort of voice that could sing you the side of a cereal box and you’d be content, but that’s not to take away from rewards that are to be found in listening closely to the lyrics of this very satisfying, accomplished EP. Imrei has developed and fully inhabits both parts of being a ‘singer-songwriter’ and that is to the very great benefit of the listener.

Older is out now.

Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes | Spotify




Album news: Liquid Damage by Harvey Russell

unnamed-3.jpgSydneysider Harvey Russell was the front man for the rock/alt-country Harvey Swagger Band in the late 2000s and played country-folk music in duo Peasant Moon. Now he’s released an album, Liquid Damage, as a solo artist and, in short, it is a honky-tonkin’ good time. Russell combines a musical thoroughbred lineage with a bucking bronco’s spirit and all of that is evident on this collection of heartfelt tales and entertaining tunes.

The album was produced by Michael Carpenter at Love Hz in Sydney and Carpenter appears on backing vocals, piano and other instruments. Russell’s backing band, The Widowmakers, also features Luke Moller on fiddle and Peta Caswell on backing vocals. Liquid Damage will satisfy country purists, thanks to Russell’s respect for the traditions of the genre, but even those who don’t know anything about country music will find much to satisfy them in these nine well-crafted songs.

Liquid Damage is out now.

Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes | Spotify